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Lead the Way! President’s Day Activities for Students

President’s Day Activities

President’s Day is on Monday, February 21st.  This holiday was originally celebrated to honor President Washington’s birthday.   It is now held on the third Monday of February every year.  On this day, Americans honor all presidents.  This date was chosen because of the proximity to both President Washington and Lincoln’s birthday.  Many states will hold parades and other ceremonies honoring the presidents.  The name of the holiday varies from state to state including President’s Day, Presidents’ Day and Washington’s Birthday.  Typically, schools are not in session on this day.  However, there are many creative language arts and social studies activities to tie into your classroom curriculum.


Middle School Activities

One activity that students could complete to learn about President’s day is by completing a Web Quest.  A Web Quest is a guided online scavenger hunt to answer questions and completing worksheets while learning about topics through researching provided links online.  Scholastic also provides an interactive web hunt, similar to a Web Quest, for students to learn about presidents.

Fact Monster has a President’s Day page written for children that explains the history of the day.  It explains how different states will celebrate this day in different ways depending on the presidents that may have impacted their community.  There are also many more links to facts pages about presidents, inaugurations, impeachments, biographies, elections, and history.

Elementary School Activities

Elementary students could visit a virtual museum about Lincoln and Washington.  The museum contains images and facts written in a language easy for kids to understand.  There are several activities that go along with the museum visit including creating a KWL chart, a Venn diagram, treasure hunts, quizzes, and additional presentations.  The activity I liked the best was being able to show the students an animated map of when the states were added to the United States.

Kaboose provides links to craft connections for teaching about President’s Day.  Some of the ideas were very creative and fun  and would tie in with the virtual museum trip.  These include making a pretzel log cabin, cherry tree, finger puppets of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln hats, and old glory flags.  Other links on this site include activities, games, printables, and facts about the presidents.

School Family has printables for President’s Day.  There are coloring sheets, word scrambles, writing prompts, and poems.  This site has printable pages of all of the presidents.  An idea for a class activity would be to have the students color pages for each president and then have the students write a few facts about the presidents on each of the pages.  They could then be hung in the classroom or on the bulletin board.

Links for Other President’s Day Lessons & Activities

1.        The Teacher’s Corner President’s Day Activities

2.       Suite 101 President’s Day Lesson Plans

3.       Classroom Activities for all February Holidays

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Apps for Teachers in School

If you are a lucky teacher who owns (or is provided by your school) an iPod Touch, iPad, or even iPhone, then this is the blog post for you.  I have written several posts about apps that would be great for students to use in the classroom, but now I’m going to turn the tables and provide you with a list of apps that would be great for teachers to use in the classroom.



Percentally is a low-cost app to keep track of tally marks.  This app would be very helpful in many different classroom scenarios.  It could be used to keep track of student participation, the number of times a student is redirected in class, or even to mark down the number of questions the student received correct on a verbal or written assignment.  The tally marks can are automatically converted into percentage points through the use of the dual mode.  This would be great to keep track of the number of answers correct, for example 5 out of 8 answers correct.  In the single mode you only track one tally, for example 3 warnings.  The tally mark information can then be quickly transferred to a Google Spreadsheet or manually entered into a gradebook or anecdotal notes on a student.  Here is a video demo of this app in action.


iReward is a low-cost app that is an electronic behavior modification chart.  With this app you can setup a student in the program and then create the behavior you would like the child to achieve along with the reward they will earn.  You then choose how many times the behavior must be displayed for the student to earn the reward.  You can add a picture to the reward chart to encourage the student to earn the reward, for example a picture of the correct behavior.  You can take a picture and load it, or use a picture that you already have.

After the chart is set up, all you have to do is tap the star to indicate that the behavior has been displayed and it changes color from white to gold.  When all of the stars are filled in, they will all turn red.  A video of congratulations (or other reward videos) can be applied for when the student has achieved the award.

There are many modifications you can make to this reward system.  You can also select the stars to revert them back to white if a student has displayed the incorrect behavior.  To reset the stars, you just double tap to remove the colored filling.  If a student has achieved the goal of the behavior modification, you can delete the option by swiping across the row of a reward and then select delete.  To prevent unwanted changes you can also password protect the rewards under the settings mode.  After editing the reward, you relock it by shaking your electronic device.  Here is a video demo of iReward.

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk is a free organizational checklist app.  I know as a teacher that there are so many different tasks to do in each day of the school week.  This app can help to manage the different tasks that you need to get done.  Items could include parent meetings, staff meetings, student conferences, when to make copies, what lessons you need to plan for, items you may need to pick up at the store for your classes, or even activities or lessons for the day.  These lists can be shared with other programs like a Google Calendar, Outlook, or Twitter.  Alerts can be set to remind you though your smart phone, email, text messages, or instant messages.  Tasks can be tagged by applying keywords or even locations on a Google Map.  There are many options you can apply including choosing a title for your task, a date, time, and if it repeats.  Tasks can be marked as incomplete or complete.  Tasks can be scheduled in advance or for the current day.

I also found a great resource that has a variety of apps that are subject area related.  There are apps for science, math, language arts, and social studies teachers.  Do you have any favorite apps that you use for teaching?

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Activities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday, January 17th.  Every year we celebrate his birthday on the 3rd Monday in January.  It is a federal holiday and the majority of schools will be closed.  However, there are many language arts and historical classroom connections to remember the accomplishments of his life and work through a variety of activities and lessons.  This can transition to various activities that will lead into Black History Month or the Civil Rights Movement discussions.

mlk jr

Middle & High School Activities

Beyond teaching about the historical significance of MLK’s accomplishments, lessons could also include information about the about the history and reluctance to observe the holiday.  MLK Day was signed into law in 1983 by President Reagan.  However, 2000 was the first year that all states celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.  Some states, especially in the south, combine this day with other celebrations like Robert E Lee’s birthday or a general Human Rights Day. Mr. King is one of the only men whose life is celebrated through a federal holiday that never held a political office.

There are a lot of great resources available on the History Channel website about Mr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black History Month.   There are articles, videos, photos, links and other classroom materials that can be utilized to build lessons and activities for the classroom.

One lesson on the subject could include learning about both Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy, who were both influential leaders of the 60’s.  The lesson could then focus on how their assassinations effected both that era along with our society today.  This could be held as a class discussion or a research assignment where students create a presentation or paper on the topic.

Elementary Activities

There is a wide variety of ways to teach about the history of MLK beyond coloring pages and worksheets.  One engaging activity is to have students create a written and illustrated timeline of the important events in MLKs life.  You can show your students the example online and then they can research and create their own timeline as a class.  A tie in for history and language arts would be to include the “I Have a Dream” speech into a lesson.   The students could listen to the speech then discuss the speech as a class, and then have them write up their own speeches of their dreams to share with their peers.  Students of all ages can watch the “I Have a Dream” speech on many of the video sharing websites like YouTube and TeacherTube.

For younger students there are many excellent picture books on the topic of Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, Black History Month, and equality.  There is a great lesson plan that ties in the reading of Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King with equality, dreams and hopes, and art.

Other Activities

  1. “I Have a Dream” Cloze activity
  2. Lesson on Equality
  3. Mapping Martin Luther King
  4. Identifying Heroes


Article By Laura Ketcham

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Back from Break: New Year’s Lesson Ideas for Students

The sign winter break is coming to a close is always the countdown to the New Year.  When students and teachers head back to school after break, they are refreshed, excited, and ready to take on new academic challenges.  Starting off the New Year on the right foot is very similar to the first day of school all over again.  Take this renewed interest to reacquaint students to classroom rules and expectations along with taking the time to share experiences of winter break.  This will help your classroom and students to be successful for the New Year.


Writing Activities for the New Year

Creative writing and writing prompts are a great way to start of the New Year for your classes.  Getting students back into the academic mindset can be difficult, but if you tailor the assignments to include reflections of the past year or break time activities, and also looking toward the next year and their future, students can really be engaged in the writing process while gaining their academic bearings.   The Teacher’s Corner has many New Year’s writing activities along with links to other websites that have other activities and lesson ideas.  To encourage journal writing they have a link to a printables page with lined paper with a New Year’s theme.  This creative paper can encourage students to write.  Many different lessons can be based on using this paper like making a New Year’s resolution or a list of accomplishments they would like to achieve over the next year.  These can then be shared with the class.  Sharing these goals helps to make individuals accountable for reaching for their goals.

The History of New Year’s

Another great back to school activity for the New Year is for the students to learn about the history of New Year’s.  The History Channel has many videos about the history and traditions of the New Year’s celebrations.  Students could also learn about how different cultures and countries celebrate the incoming of the New Year.   Education World has a great article for teachers to get ideas about what to teach students when learning about the variety of calendars and how different cultures celebrate the New Year on different dates.  A great tie-in would be to present the materials to the students and then they would create their own calendar based on their findings and opinions.

Art & New Year’s

Of course, you can’t teach about New Year’s without incorporating at least one art related activity.  However, these activities don’t have to be meaningless add-ons or just for fun.  Tying in art activities with core curriculum concepts is easy.  For example, if you have students create their own calendar based on learning about other cultures and how and when they celebrate New Year’s, students can become artists when labeling the dates or creating the top part of a calendar.  Here is a great template to use for this activity from

Students can also learn to sing “Auld Lange Syne.”  During this lesson, students can also learn about the history of the song and its importance to English speaking cultures.   Another great site to review for material is Wilstar.  This site has the history and academic connections for many of the major holidays.

For an “overall resource” Suite101 offers a page about activities for students when they return from winter break.  This site includes writing prompts, math ideas, and review games for students to get back into the academic swing. 

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Holiday Break Reading Resources for Students

During holiday break, students should be given time to be with family and friends, travel, and relax and unwind.  Teachers do not typically assign homework over break for this specific reason.  However, I definitely believe that students should be reading over the holiday break as one of the only a few school-related activities.  I encourage my students to read up on the latest technology that came out over the holidays and what is projected to hit the market in the New Year.  We then discuss this topic as a spring board to learning about computer hardware components.  I encourage students to read books, newspapers, magazines, and online news resources, along with continued use of the online resources for reading provided to them through the school.

For my fellow co-workers who also encourage reading over the break, I like to provide them with fun online resources for students to use to stay actively engaged in reading over the break.  Here are some of the resources I suggested to them for this winter break.



Starfall is an ‘oldie, but goodie’ resource.  This staple resource is great for pre-K through 2nd grade readers to read online over the holiday break.  There are online reading activities for students to learn their letters along with short online stories for emerging readers.

Magic Keys

Magic Keys is a site that has many online Children’s Storybooks.  Students in grades 3through 8 would enjoy this site.  Some of the books have audio options for the books to be read aloud through the computer.  They also have a sister site for younger students called ABC Fast Phonics.  This site would be great for Pre-K through 2nd grade students to learn their letters and words.

Reading is Fundamental:  Reading Planet

Reading Planet has fun and interactive reading games and stories for elementary students.    With a free online login account, stories can be read online and many include animation, audio, and video.  The games a fun and engaging and include activities where students learn about letters, sounds, building stories, vocabulary, and even Spanish words and phrases.

Storyline Online

Storyline Online  has interactive stories that are read aloud by actors and actresses.  This site is sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild.  As the actors read the stories, the computer screen switches between views of the animate book along with video of the actor.  There is also background music with that helps to set the scene.  This makes the book really come alive.  There are also captions, so the words appear on the screen and the students can follow along as the story is read.  Italso has guides, worksheets, and activities that go along with or relate to the story.  This is a site that you definitely have to check out and share with your students.  It would even be a great activity for students to watch during class on an Interactive Board.

PBS Kids:  Clifford

Clifford the Big Red Dog has his own website full of stories and reading activities.  The books are interactive and include audio and animation.  Students can click on the phrases to have them read aloud.

Share these sites with your students, parents, and co-workers to keep kids reading over the holiday break.  Also share you reading and e-book resources by commenting below.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Students Gather the Troops for Holiday Project

The holidays are usually a time when people like to give back to those in need. Even though many of us have our differences and challenges in life, there is always something we can do to make the world a better place for many other people.

school for the blind

At the state School for the Blind in Batavia, New York, 54 students participated in a “Treats for Troops” project. Students recently went shopping for items while others wrapped gifts, stuffed stockings and put together other holiday treats. For the students who are blind, Braille letters were transcribed by the staff for the 30 people who are currently serving with the Navy in Afghanistan. For these soldiers, this will be their first package since being deployed this summer.

The students are more than happy to send them some holiday cheer to these deserving people. Started after a teacher’s assistant learned about how these soldiers were not getting mail, the school and community got involved in this holiday project. Local businesses even got in on some of the action.

The students were able to learn many important lessons through the production of this project, like community service, money and budgeting and orientation and mobility, and more importantly, team work. It was a way for them to understand some of the feelings of other people and help them in any way they could.

The soldiers are expected to be overjoyed when they receive their packages this holiday season. What a great way to truly honor our troops!

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Strategies for Educating EH and SED Students

Teaching students classified as Emotionally Handicapped (EH) or Seriously Emotionally Disturbed (SED) in the inclusive classroom setting has been one of the most challenging experiences of my teaching career.  Statistically this group of students makes up only 8% of all of the disabilities under IDEA, however 80% of the students labeled as EH or SED are male students.  EH and SED students have difficulty with displaying appropriate behaviors and emotions, including facets of depression, aggression, withdrawal or other behaviors that may be disruptive or distracting to other students in the classroom.  These behaviors or actions have contributed to the EH or SED student often being academically unsuccessful.



Following many of the accommodations on the Individualize Education Plan is a starting place for helping these students be successful in class.  The accommodations that I have worked with previously include setting specific classroom rules and expectations directly for the student, and creating a preventative discipline plan.  For younger students, following a card based system like the “Stop Light Game” (green for great, yellow for warning, and red for stop) is one behavior strategy that helps students to visually see their behaviors in the classroom and it is a quick way to modify the behavior.  If the student is on red at the end of the day a consequence should be set in place.  Working together with the parents to use a similar system at home helps the student to be aware of their behaviors and the consequences that go with the behavior, both good and bad.

“The Good Student Game” is another positive preventative discipline option.  This game works great with younger and older students.   Students work in pairs during class to monitor each other’s behavior.  The teacher will indicate certain points during the class period when they evaluate each other’s behavior.  This can be done through a simple card with a check yes or no or percentages (example on the link above) which is then reviewed at the end of the class.

Get to Know the Student & Planning Ahead

Getting to know the student who is EH or SED is one of the most important aspects in helping the student to manage behaviors and to help them be academically successful.  This way, as a teacher, I know what the triggers both positive and negative behavior in a student.  This way you can plan the best approach for dealing with situations like incomplete homework, not performing well on a test, tattle tales, emotional shutdowns, and the like.  Using simple back-to-school style ice breakers will help in the “getting to know you “process.

After getting to know the student very well, this will help you to plan ahead for your lessons, activities, assessments, and tasks such as planning for the flow of the class schedule.  Planning ahead for group assignments, buddy pairs, classroom seating, ways of including the student, and time management can help the class run smoothly.  This also means having a plan ahead of time for when the EH or SED student has an outburst or withdrawal period. Other students need to understand that when the student is in withdrawal that the student may not want to be comforted or touched and may prefer to be left alone.  Students may also need a ‘cool off’ period where they go to use the restroom or to get a drink of water at the water fountain.  If a student has an outburst, the teacher has to have a plan to remove the other students from any harm (like a flying chair or fists).  Planning ahead may also include making academic changes to lesson plans, worksheets, tests, or quizzes.  There are many ways to assess mastery of content and lessons, test questions, or assignments may be modified based on the student’s learning style.  The teacher may adapt tests for special need students based on Bloom’s Taxonomy., for example, a well written multiple choice question may be as effective is assessing mastery as a short answer question.  Checklists are a great way to help to in preparing and planning ahead.

What other suggestions do you have in helping EH and SED students to be behaviorally and academically successful?  Feel free to share your tips, tricks, and links by commenting below.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Thanksgiving Project & Craft Ideas for Students

Thanksgiving week is a great time of the year to engage your students in creative and crafty cross-curriculum projects.  The Thanksgiving theme is effective with ties not only social studies, but all subject areas like math, science, language arts, technology, and foreign languages.  Thanksgiving lessons also lend themselves to be tied into social skills like sharing, giving, and being thankful.


Crafty Ideas from my Experiences

Many of the ideas that I have on this topic are generated from my experiences as a teacher.   These are great ideas that you can incorporate in your school or classroom.

Class Feast – Hold a feast for students and invite parents.  Students can prepare dishes at home to bring to school to share with their classmates.  If students are not allowed to bring home prepared foods, many traditional Thanksgiving fare can be purchased already prepared from local grocery stores and restaurants.  Students can make craft items like placemats, place cards, and Indian headdresses or pilgrim hats.

“Turkey Hand Poems” – Students write a short poem (like a haiku, acrostic, couplet, or limerick) about turkeys (or any other Thanksgiving theme).  Students then trace their hand on construction paper and decorate it into a turkey.  The poem is written or pasted (if typed on a computer and printed) onto the turkey hand.   This can then be turned into a card or place setting for a Thanksgiving meal.

Food Drive – Students bring in canned and non-perishable foods to donate to local food banks, homeless shelters, veterans hospitals, or senior centers.  Older students can help to organize the event by promoting the drive to the different classes, making flyers, collecting, and delivering the food.  Students could even volunteer their time the day of Thanksgiving at a local charity to help serve Thanksgiving dinner.  These ideas tie in with many business and computer education classes with the idea of marketing and desktop publishing along with community outreach. Providing direct responsibilities and roles for special needs students helps them in following through with their directed assignment in helping out for a food drive.

History Videos – Another great activity that incorporates technology with learning about History is showing videos about the history of Thanksgiving.  This activity can be combined with a teacher-made guided worksheet.  The videos available on The History Channel Website represent the true stories of the first Thanksgiving, the historical importance, and traditional customs of celebrating Thanksgiving today.

Native American Costumes – A great activity for younger students is to hold a Thanksgiving reenactment play.  Students can be split into pilgrims and Native Americans.  Students can make headdresses and pilgrim hats out of sentence strips.  They can write short sentences in relation to a theme or activity about Thanksgiving.   Students can make vests or outfits out of paper bags that can then be painted and decorated in traditional ways to represent Native Americans and pilgrims.  A math connection can be made when making the feather headdresses by having the students put the feathers into patterns. The final result can be a short play reenacting the first Thanksgiving.

All of these activities can be adapted to meet the needs of any specific classroom or a school.  Providing assistance or a buddy pairs with craft activities help students with limitations to participate in the activity.

Parents also love to volunteer during the holiday season so they can watch their students grow and learn with fun hands on activities.  Teachers should welcome this help by assigning specific roles to the parents.

Sites with More Thanksgiving Craft Activities and Lessons

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Online Resources Provided by the US Department of Education (Part 3 of 3)

In my previous posts I wrote about Tech Matrix and The National Center for Technology Innovation.  These organization’s websites contain a wealth of technology resources for special education teachers, administrators, professional development trainers, and technology coordinators to widen their knowledge about technology and special education.  These were two of three Department of Education organizations that I recently found while searching online.


Today’s post is about another Department of Education organization, The Center for Implementing Technology in Education.  My first experience with this website was watching their narrated tour of their website.  This link was a great first look at what this site has to offer.  I definitely suggest checking it out.

There are three main categories on this site:  the Learn Center, the Action Center, and the Research Center.  All of these can be best utilized by becoming a free registered user under the My Center link.  When you register you are able to bookmark and tag links and articles that you find relevant to what you want to know or to learn about.  You can then share these resources and create ‘toolkits’ to send your colleagues, teams, or teacher friends.

The Learn Center

The Learn Center provides resources for a variety of educational professionals including teachers, administrators, technology coordinators, and professional development coordinators.  When you go to this site, you chose your role, and you will be directed to a page of resources that fits your designated role.  Under the teachers link, the site is broken down into four sections – responsibilities, topics, featured resources, and related research.  Under all of the sections, the user chooses the categories of interest and then the selection will provide further resources from various online resources to learn more about the topic.  These resources range from research articles, blogs, state resources, and other organizations that support the education of special needs children.  This website is a great jumping-off point to learn more and stay current with trends in technology with special needs students.

Action Center

The Action Center provides professional development materials and the EdTech Locator.  The EdTech Locator was discussed in my first post about the Tech Matrix.  This tool is great for professional development to determine where you, your staff, or your school is at in means of technology integration.  This resource provides information to help take you from the early stage of integration to the target state of integration.

Research Center

The Research Center contains article links about emerging and current best practices of technology integration for the special education classroom.  This information can be applied to local schools and assist in making technology choices in the special education classroom.  One article from this section I found interesting was research that was done at different levels of education on calculator implementation in the special education classroom.  Overall, the research findings were that the use of calculators had a positive impact on operational and problem solving skills.

Overall, I hope that you have found the past three posts to be very informative and as great resources for learning more about technology in special education.  These sites represent the now and the future of how technology can help students with special needs to achieve academic and social goals helping them to become independent and active citizens in their adult lives.  These three resources would be great to share with your fellow colleagues, those who are both special education teachers and those who have special education students in their mainstream classrooms.  I have learned a lot about the various tools, websites, research, and products available for special needs students from these resources and I hope you have too.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Voting Day Activities for Students

uesday, November 2nd is a very important day in America.  It is the day where we are holding mid-term elections for 37 of the 100 senate seats.  State votes will also take place on topics ranging from education to state spending.  Elections will also be held that day for many governor positions along with other state and local government positions.  Teaching students about the importance and history of voting is vital to the basis of why the United States was formed and continues to be a free nation.  The Elections that will be held on this day will shape the next few years of American politics and government.


Here are some great online resources for lessons and projects for teaching about voting and elections for students in grades K-12.

A to Z Teacher Stuff Election Resources

On A to Z Teacher Stuff, they have an annotated list of election resources.  This site has activities and lessons for all grade levels.  For older students, they have activities like critiquing campaign ads, mapping election results, news scavenger hunts, debate activities, and voting games.  This site has only a few activities for younger students that are adaptions of the lessons for the older students.  The elections mapping and the scavenger hunts would be great for students of all ages and levels.

Teach-nology Election Lesson Plans

On Teach-nology, they have a site dedicated to civics, voting, and elections lesson plans.   This site has some lessons that you may only download a few pages or parts of a lesson for free, but the remainder of the materials must be downloaded by purchasing a year-long membership to the site.  However, there are also lesson links that direct you to other great, free teaching resources.  One great hands-on lesson on this site is called Every Vote Counts.  This lesson gets the students involved in the process of voting by holding a mock school election.  The students are involved in the whole process from creating the ballot, campaigning, voting, and counting the votes.  A great lesson for older students would be to review political cartoons and their meaning and impact upon the election.

Teachable Moments Lesson Plans on Social Responsibility

Teachable Moments has grade-level separated activities based on the topic of social responsibility.  The topics range from teaching about important, but sensitive issues like cyberbullying, homophobia, war, climate change, controversial laws, and dealing with a crisis through positive and impactful lesson plans and activities.  The activities are created as ‘teachable moments’ in society arise that make the topic an important newsworthy and education worthy topic of discussion.

This site also has lessons about elections, voting, politics, and the United States Government.  One high school lesson involves the topic of the ‘broken senate’ and filibustering.  There are reading passages that the class reads together and then discussion questions to further the depth of the conversation.  Another middle school lesson encourages the students to look at the qualities that political figures and the president should possess.  It also includes information on how adults may make decision on who they vote for and how they learn about the issues and candidates before voting day.  This is a great website that helps to teach difficult subjects in an appropriate educational manner and setting.

Election Day Kaboose Activities

Kaboose has great craft and activities ideas to teach younger students about Election Day.  They have craft ideas to create election boxes, voting booths, and election pins/stickers.  These crafts can then be tied into mock-elections like voting on the snack for next week or who gets to be the line leader for the day.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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